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Expanding Shifting Baseline Syndrome to Accommodate Increasing Abundances

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Address correspondence to D. A. Steen, email davidasteen@gmail.com

Abstract

The shifting baseline syndrome suggests that our perceptions of previous conditions may change over time as ecosystems degrade. Although most discussion of the topic relates to decreasing species abundances, there are several reasons to think that abundances of many species will increase in response to anthropogenic disturbance. For example, increases in abundances of certain species are predicted after the removal of predators, as exotic and invasive species become established, and as habitat generalists proliferate. Because generational amnesia about historic conditions could influence the setting of restoration targets, restoration ecologists should explicitly consider the shifting baseline syndrome in reference to increases in abundances from historic levels.

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